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Staley opens up about his neck injury and the decision to retire

Staley was on a couple of podcasts recently discussing the discomfort he had with his neck injury

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers recently retired starting left tackle Joe Staley was on Adam Schefter’s podcast discussing his neck injury. Staley also joined another podcast where he opened up about his neck injury as well. It’s always fascinating when a player opens up about the type of pain they play through. In Joe’s case, he made it sound like the decision to retire was easy. Here is Staley talking about the pain and injuries from the Super Bowl:

“It got to the point where in the Super Bowl, I’d make contact with my head, with anybody, I’d have from the base of my neck down through my back, I’d have just a zing, and my arms would go numb. Basically, I had herniations at a bunch of different levels and really severe stenosis. And then the [doctor] was like, ‘If you’re going to have to continue to play football, you’re probably going to have to have neck fusion surgery on multiple levels.’ And I was just like, ‘I’m 35, and I’ve got kids “I don’t want to not be able to turn my neck for the rest of my life.”

Staley gets it. Though he was still one of the best in the world at his job, football remains a game, and the risk, at this stage in Staley’s career, isn’t worth the reward. I imagine anyone with children or close ties to their family understands where Staley is coming from. Here is Staley on Schefter’s podcast talking about the discomfort he felt:

“I started noticing different ailments with my neck and kind of like my posterior chain, upper back, just kind of feeling out of alignment, just feeling a little bit weird. I started getting some stingers a little bit more than I’ve ever had in my career. But this is what I’ve been waiting for my whole career, last season, the chance to go to the playoffs, we being so bad for so long, make a playoff run, go to the Super Bowl. I think the ailments just started compiling a little bit, but it was something I could manage and something I could play through, so I wasn’t really thinking too much about I’ve got to get this figured out. I’ve got to look at it. I was just doing my daily treatments, trying to manage it as best as I could, and eliminate the hits as much as I could during the practices and whatnot.”

Staley spoke to a specialist, Dr. Robert G. Watkins, in Los Angeles, and that made him start to consider retirement seriously. Staley said the discussion lasted between four or five hours, and after the talk with Dr. Watkins, Joe began to realize how serious his injury was. Watkins was concerned about Staley’s age, as well as other factors that come along with playing football, such as the hits to the head. Staley initially hoped the time away from football and rest would help. Eventually, he decided to do what was best for himself and his family:

“You put your body through a lot, especially playing offensive line for as long as I have. The stresses too that you put your family through when dealing with all that, I just thought it was a good time.”